Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Today is the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I. I tried to explain to my daughter last night why that was so significant, and she had a hard time getting her 'tween mind around the joy that flowed through the world when the guns finally fell silent. I spared her the gruesome statistics of how many were killed or wounded, but I did try to tell her just how awful it was for everyone involved, and how glad they were when the war was over and they could go home.

Most of the Irish Woman's Kentucky family never served. Her father served in World War II, and so did a couple of her uncles, but they've long since gone on to better places. Their sons stayed out of Vietnam, and none of the grandsons chose to join. Hoosier Dad served in Korea, and we've shared a couple of beers talking about it, but he's about it for that side too.

So I'm kind of an oddball in the family. I fly the flag most days outside our home, I pay attention when I hear a bugle call in the distance from one of the cemetaries. I don't dwell on it, and since most of the family has nothing in common with that part of my life, I don't discuss it with them. It's kind of lonely sometimes, but they wouldn't understand, and I don't know how I could get my point across to them when discussing why certain things are important even if they don't put money in their pockets or make their lives easier in a direct way.

I took the Irish Woman and the kids to a local veterans cemetary a few years ago to find one of her uncles who died as part of a bomber crew in World War II. We found the marker, and left some flowers. The Irish Woman commented that she couldn't remember the last time someone had talked about visiting this particular grave. For some reason that didn't surprise me.

The next year, we went to Washington DC on Veterans Day. It was just me and the Irish Woman, and we walked the mall and visited Arlington. She didn't seem to understand how holy the place was until she saw me stop and wait respectfully for a Navy officer to finish his visit to a grave and salute it. We visited the Vietnam War memorial . She began emotional when I pointed out soldiers in the wall with names that come from her side of the family. Then I showed her the wall at the Korean memorial, and how the ranks of young men and women whose portraits are engraved there will always remind us of how many we owe so much to.

Since that time, she has become more appreciative of why I always want to pull down her decorative flags to fly the Colors. She doesn't ask why when I want to go down to the Fort Knox museum on Memorial Day for a ceremony. And while she doesn't understand why I cry during certain movies or TV programs, she knows to just let me snuffle a bit and get on with life.

Members of my family have been serving this country since our first ancestor got off the boat from Europe. Sometimes they've just been technicians and clerks, and other times they've been combat soldiers. I was raised by veterans near a military base, and several of the men I model myself on carried scars home from faroff places named St. Lo, Luzon, and DaNang. I was fortunate to serve in a lot of places where I could do some good, and I wouldn't have missed a moment of it for anything. No, I wasn't Sergeant Rock, but I wasn't Gomer Pyle either, and I sure as heck wasn't some long-haired, peace sign waving hippie.

Tonight, I'll sit down with my kids and look at my photo albums of all the places I've been and the people I served with. Some of them still stay in touch, some of them have been lost to the four winds that is PCS/ETS. I remember them all, and always will. I do this with my kids so that they don't get a romantic vision of the military, good or bad. If they choose to join up after they graduate, I want them to do it with both eyes wide open.

Blackfive has two excellent articles about Veteran's Day. I suggest you go read them and think for a moment of the grandfathers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters who have stood ready at a moments notice to protect you and allow you to live in peace.

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